In the beginning…

It feels as though there’s an invisible line that I crossed without knowing it. It wasn’t a very subtle line, yet I never really realized just how long ago I crossed that line. The line I’m talking about is the line that separates having most of college in front of me and having most of college behind me. Clearly, this happened the summer between my sophomore and junior years, but somehow, I never realized how close I was to the end.

This winter break has clarified my situation. I’m working on my senior thesis, my capstone project. I’m working on finding a job for next year. I’m getting ready to pack up and head back to Haverford for nearly the last time. My dad just wrote my last tuition check (ok, maybe that’s less sentimental than the rest).

Anyway, all this end-ward looking has made me try to think back, back to the early days of Haverford, so today I’d like to talk about your VERY FIRST DAY at HC. Sonia already talked a bit about Customs, but I’m going to particularly focus on that awesome (as in, “full of awe”) day that is move-in day.

As a brief recap, each “customs group” (frosh on a hall) have a matching “customs team,” upper-class students specifically selected and trained to be totally terrific and guide you through your freshman year.  There are five specific positions (including a UCA), each with their own acronym and purpose, and that’s totally a post for another time. Meantime, suffice it to say there are as many as seven upperclass students per hall, ready to orient you to college life.

Getting ready for move-in day involves making a lot of posters.

Customs teams are trained during the spring semester, and then arrive back on campus a few days early to polish up just in time for the frosh to arrive. Rule Number One, as I remember from my HCO days (there’s one of those acronyms!) is that at Haverford, no one moves themselves in. Seriously. It’s like the 11th Commandment, just to mix my metaphors a bit.

Now, as an incoming student, I didn’t know Rule Number One, and neither did my family. This is why my Dad and I practiced carrying my fridge so we’d be ready to move it in to my third floor room. It was a legitimate source of anxiety for us. It wasn’t heavy, but it was bulky, and the stairways were narrow…anyway, we practiced.

Move-in day arrived, and we found Gummere, my dorm, with some effort. We found parking even more difficult, but when we had found a decent place and slowed down to turn into it, a swarm of people in brightly colored shirts surrounded the car before my dad could even stop the car completely. They opened the doors and the trunk, and they were all talking at once: “Welcome to Haverford!” “We’re so glad you’re here!” “What room are you in?” “Is this all your stuff?” “Welcome to Haverford!”

Waiting for the frosh to arrive

It was all I could do to tell them my room number amidst the chaos. When the swarm disappeared and we finally parked, we opened the trunk…it was completely empty. Nothing except my backpack remained in the car. My dad didn’t quite to know what to make of this. “The fridge! They took the fridge! They just took it!!”

Nearly four years later, I’m not shocked–with the Honor Code, all kinds of borrowing happens because we know returning also happens. But on my first day on campus, the sight of an empty trunk that had been expertly jammed full just half an hour previously was a little jarring. With nothing else to do, we headed up to my room, where we found all those boxes and, yes, the fridge, all waiting for me to come unpack.

Customs Week is, of course, about more than move-in day. It’s about Dorm Olympics, the Supa-Fun Dance, Party in the HCA, the hypnotist, and getting to know your hall. But as I look forward to the singular semester that remains for me at Haverford, I find myself looking back to my first day as a part of the Haverford community.

Rule Number One sets the tone for the rest of your time here. We’re a community: welcome; it’s your first day and it’s overwhelming, let us help you. We’re glad you’re here, we can’t wait to get to know you. This is the Haverford attitude, and it’s manifest from day–no, minute one.

As I say, there’s so much more to talk about when I mention Customs Week, and all of that is forthcoming. But for now, I’ll reminisce about how terrific my first day on campus was, and you can cancel those plans to practice carrying the fridge.